Coronavirus: Indian Wells tennis becomes first big US sports casualty

The Indian Wells tournament is one of the biggest outside the four tennis Grand Slams. (AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Coronavirus: Indian Wells tennis becomes first big US sports casualty

  • Tournament, one of the biggest outside the four tennis Grand Slams, canceled just days before it was due to begin
  • The tournament draws more than 400,000 fans each year to Indian Wells

LOS ANGELES: The ATP and WTA tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, has been canceled over fears surrounding the new coronavirus outbreak, making it the first major sports event in the US to be scrubbed due to health concerns.
The tournament, one of the biggest outside the four tennis Grand Slams, was canceled just days before it was due to begin.
Officials said in a news release on Sunday that they opted to cancel because California health officials had declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley — in the desert east of Los Angeles — after a confirmed case of COVID-19.
“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” said tournament director Tommy Haas.
Days earlier, organizers had said they planned to go ahead with extra health measures in place such as hand-sanitizing stations, beefed-up cleaning protocols and gloves for ball kids, volunteers and food workers.
The ATP and WTA had also issued virus-related guidelines, telling players not to accept items from fans to be autographed.
Before the cancelation, the tournament had offered to give refunds to anyone who had bought tickets, but did not want to attend.
The tournament draws more than 400,000 fans each year to Indian Wells, 27 kilometers southeast of Palm Springs.
Many of the players had already arrived in Indian Wells with qualifying matches scheduled to start on Monday and the main women’s draw beginning on Wednesday.
“I’m shook,” Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov wrote on his Twitter page.
The number of coronavirus cases in the US has exceeded 500 spread across more than 30 states.
“There is too great a risk, at this time, to the public health of the Riverside County area in holding a large gathering of this size,” said doctor David Agus, professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California.
“It is not in the public interest of fans, players and neighboring areas for this tournament to proceed. We all have to join together to protect the community from the coronavirus outbreak.”
Indian Wells lasts two weeks and draws some of the largest crowds for a tennis event in North America. The number of competitors and lucrative prize money being offered for the men and women has helped earn it the nickname of “The Fifth Slam.”
There is also a men and women’s tournament scheduled for Miami later this month but there was no word on any changes to that event.
Following Miami, the tours head to Europe for the beginning of the clay court season. The run up to the French Open includes the ATP and WTA event in Rome, Italy, the hardest-hit European country with 366 deaths from the virus.
“It is too soon to speculate about what will happen to other tournaments that follow,” WTA chairman Steve Simon said on Sunday. “Health and safety will always come first.”
Simon told The New York Times they also considered holding matches without fans but scrapped that idea as well.
“We were supportive of the concept. But ultimately the tournament didn’t feel it was in their best interest,” he said.


UFC superstar Conor McGregor announces retirement

Updated 07 June 2020

UFC superstar Conor McGregor announces retirement

  • The controversial fighter first announced his retirement from the sport in March last year

LONDON: Mixed martial arts superstar Conor McGregor announced his retirement from the sport on Sunday.
The two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) World Champion said his fighting days were over in a Twitter message posted on his verified account, alongside a picture of the Irishman with his mother, Margaret.
“Hey guys I’ve decided to retire from fighting. Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it’s been!” he wrote.
“Here is a picture of myself and my mother in Las Vegas post one of my World title wins! Pick the home of your dreams Mags I love you! Whatever you desire it’s yours.”
The controversial fighter, nicknamed “The Notorious,” first announced his retirement from the sport in March last year after being battered into submission by arch-rival Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018.
He made a return to the octagon in January after 15 months of inaction to knock out American Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in just 40 seconds in Las Vegas.
The 31-year-old, an icon of the UFC, is no stranger to controversy and hit the headlines last year for an attack on an older man in a Dublin bar that was captured in a viral video.
McGregor, one of the most popular fighters in MMA history, has a record of 22-4 and was the first UFC fighter to hold two championship belts at the same time.
He achieved that feat in 2016, when he stopped Eddie Alvarez in a lightweight title fight, adding it to his featherweight title.
That triumph was followed by a loss to boxing great Floyd Mayweather in a cross-combat superfight in 2017, his loss to Nurmagomedov, announcements of retirements and returns to fighting.